When Insurance Can Save

Article published on 6th May 2008

One in three people will be positively diagnosed as having cancer within our lifetimes. The disease can hit at any time, although it does tend to affect the older people more critically. With some cancers (such as breast cancer) becoming more common, causing a 1% rise in cases every year, treatments are improving for sufferers - so there is hope.

That said, in the case of one cancer sufferer, Maria Hubert, (60) identification and treatment came too late because of short-fallings within the public health system. Mrs. Hubert developed esophagus, a less common form of cancer and one that could only be identified positively through an endoscopy where a sort of thin camera and attached light (or endoscope) is lowered down through the patient's throat and into the affected area where any problems can be seen and recorded.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Hubert her GP informed her that an endoscopy was an expensive procedure and not worth doing for something he believed would probably just turn out to be heartburn in a woman of Mrs. Hubert's years. When Mrs. Hubert finally bought private health insurance for routine and unrelated surgery in her stomach and lower chest she was found to have advanced cancer of the oesophagus.

So advanced was her cancer that it had created tubes from her stomach to her lungs, causing a steady pump of digestive acids to be released into her lungs every time she hiccupped - which, due to her condition, had been quite often.

Tragically, what was supposed to have been routine surgery for Mrs. Hubert proved to be a final strain that her beleaguered system could not cope with, resulting in her death while still under general anesthetic.

Her surgeon said that had she been given an endoscopy when she first started complaining of discomfort in her chest more than a year previously she would have had a good chance of recovery with the correct treatments.

Suffice to say that her NHS GP was deeply distressed for his misdiagnosis, although this was small comfort to the late Mrs. Hubert's husband and three children.

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